The home improvements you need to tell your insurer about (and the ones you don’t)

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Many people will be planning some sort of home improvement project this summer — but did you know you might need to tell your insurer about it?

By Emma Mitra

At the time of writing, the UK has entered its third month of lockdown measures. However, there is a bit of good news – for home improvement fans, anyway. DIY stores have opened their doors once more, and the construction industry has leapt into action again.

So if you’ve baked all the banana bread and binged on every box set, could it be time to start on the renovation plans you’ve had on your to-do list forever?

You certainly wouldn’t be alone. According to a report by Censuswide for Aviva, 85% of the UK population has used the time at home to tackle some kind of home improvement. But before you pick up the hand-drill or call in the contractors, spare a thought for your home insurance policy.

It’s a standard condition on most policies that you have to inform your insurer about any renovations or alterations to your home before you start them. But what does that mean in reality – and why does it matter?

What you need to tell your insurer about

You’ll need to tell your insurer about any changes or alterations you’re planning on making to the structure of your home. Things like extending a room, adding a conservatory or doing a loft conversion. 

Your insurer doesn’t need to know about cosmetic changes to the interior of your home, like painting the walls, re-tiling your bathroom or putting up some shelves. 

Why you need to tell your insurer

The rules around what home improvements you need to disclose to your insurer may seem straight forward enough. But why is it so important – and why do you need to inform them before work starts? It’s more than a box ticking exercise, as Jonathan Cracknell, Head of Underwriting at Aviva, explains. 

“If you plan to carry out any structural works to your property you should inform your insurer to check that the work you’re doing won’t invalidate your policy, and to check that you have sufficient cover in place”, says Jonathan. “Altering the structure of the home could impact your cover.”

“For example, building an extension or adding rooms to a property could involve you having to temporarily move out of the home, having regular workers and building materials on site, or leaving and some parts of the property exposed to the elements whilst the work is ongoing. It may also change the original value and sum insured you have the home insured for.”

Yep, your home insurance premium might increase, but you’ll have peace of mind that your home is covered properly – which is the whole point of home insurance, after all. 

Protect yourself and your home 

“If you intend to make any alterations or renovations to your property, or perhaps even carry out some basic redecorating at home then it’s important to consider your insurance cover and what is and isn’t included”, says Jonathan. 

It’s worth noting that most home insurance policies exclude accidental damage as a result of buildings alterations, renovations, extensions or repairs. So if your property is damaged thanks to building work, your buildings insurance is unlikely to pay out. 

However, there are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself and your home while building work is taking place. 

Check your contents insurance

Your home insurance policy may not protect your property against any renovation mishaps, but it could cover your belongings. Jonathan’s tip? “If you’ve got contents insurance, you might want to take out extra accidental damage cover to protect your belongings against any potential mishaps.”   

Consider adding on legal cover

Thinking about potential disagreements with your neighbours isn’t pleasant, but building work has a habit of turning even the most civil of relations sour – and it’s not unheard of for disputes to end up in court. 

If you’re planning significant building work, it could be worth looking into whether you can add legal protection to your home insurance policy. Our Legal Services Cover, for example, includes up to £100,000 towards legal costs.    

Make sure your builder is insured

Since standard home insurance policies don’t normally cover significant building work, it’s so important to check that whoever is doing your building work does have their own liability insurance. 

“Most professionals should have their own insurance to cover the work they are conducting and any resulting damage”, says Jonathan. And it’ll usually cover any damage done to your neighbours’ properties as a result of the building work, too – so it’s definitely worth checking it’s in place.

Home improvement inspiration

Keen to start a renovation project but not sure what’s worth doing? Take a look at the home improvements that will add the most value to your property

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